The Ventura County sheriff will no longer investigate problems at Camarillo State Hospital or the California Youth Authority in Camarillo, a sheriff's spokesman confirmed Monday.
The decision is expected to save the Sheriff's Department about $35,000 a year, the cost of adding another investigator, Assistant Sheriff Oscar Fuller said. However, sheriff's deputies will continue to respond to major emergencies at both institutions, he said.
Representatives at the hospital and the youth authority said the decision--which went into effect in mid-October--is not expected to cause problems.
"It's not a major change," said Norm Kramer, the hospital's administrator for law enforcement.
Allison Zajac, a public information officer for the youth facility, agreed. "The sheriff only helps us out about half a dozen times a year," she said.
Most of the investigations at the hospital, Kramer said, involve "quiet abuse" cases, such as staff or family members verbally berating patients. Sheriff's deputies also investigated allegations of sexual abuse at the institutions.
At the youth authority, the deputies investigated attacks on staff members or serious fights among inmates, Zajac said.
Now those investigations will be done by staff members at the institutions, Fuller said.
Research conducted by the Sheriff's Department showed that Ventura County is the only county in the state that provides such institutional services, he said.
"I was advised by our major crimes supervisor that more and more cases were being reported, principally at the hospital," Fuller said.
"That consumed so much time," he said, that the decision was made to pass the responsibility to the staffs of the two institutions.
"This is not a big savings, but it relieves us of a goodly amount of casework," he said.
Without the policy change, Fuller said, the sheriff would have had to ask for additional funding to hire another investigator.
"It wasn't prudent to provide this (service) at taxpayers' cost when they have people on their staff who can do this work," he said.
The hospital had nine peace officers and one investigator to handle security for about 1,200 patients, Kramer said.
With the change, he said, one peace officer has become an investigator, so the institution has two investigators and eight peace officers.
"We tend to run a lot of investigations because of the mentally ill population and a large number of adolescent clients," he said.
Zajac said there are 820 inmates at the youth facility between the ages of 14 and 24. They are supervised by 98 youth counselors and 89 group supervisors or guards, all of whom are peace officers. They carry Mace and handcuffs, but no weapons, she said.
Fuller said the Sheriff's Department has provided training for the staffs of the two institutions, including the procedures for booking suspects and sorting evidence.